I’m a person of habit. So, when I go to the gym to exercise I do one of two things. I either ride an exercise bike or do the elliptical machine. Both pieces of equipment have TVs, so I grab my headphones, plug in and begin channel surfing for something that will be of interest for the next hour.
The other day I ended up watching the last hour of the classic movie Rudy. If you are not familiar with the movie, it’s the true story of Daniel Ruettiger (aka Rudy). Rudy has a dream to play football for Notre Dame. It’s a wild and outlandish dream because Rudy isn’t close to the size and ability of someone who could play football at that level. But Rudy has heart. And that’s why they made the movie.
Anyway, towards the end of the movie Rudy makes it onto the field of play and the musical theme begins. As the music swelled I found myself choking back tears and looking around sheepishly to see if anyone in the gym was watching me dissolve into tears. It wasn’t that a tiny guy was running onto the field in excitement while his dad watched from the stands. That was great. But I know if the sound was turned off I would have been fine. It was the music that penetrated into the area of my heart that holds my tears of joy and my tears of sorrow. Watch the clip here.
If you have ever wondered why we have music to accompany worship at church, this is the reason. The songs we play at the beginning of the service aren’t intended to be a long prelude to take up time before the sermon. The music is intended to reach into the part of your heart that holds your tears of sorrow and your tears of joy. Sorrow that comes from the pain you have felt and the pain you have caused. Joy from being loved and being found beautiful by the only One who really sees you for who you are.
Words are wonderful. I love words and work in words all the time. But words by themselves are limited. Even words that tell great stories and conjure images of wonder and delight can only go so far. But music and words can take you to a place you only visit once in a while. A place where the deepest and smallest you lives, but the you that desperately needs to connect with the God who loves you.
So the next time you come to church and stand to sing, let the music do its work. Let the joy and sorrow flow, and don’t worry about who is watching. Let the worship connect God to the tears that fill your heart and long to get out.